Elñora Tena Webb was born with grit. She is the daughter of a child; her mother was 13 when she birthed Webb.
That was 61 years ago. Webb was a 3-year-old toddler when her mother abandoned her, fleeing abusive circumstances. From that point and through high school, Webb was shuffled from one foster home to another, building armor, skipping her childhood, and believing that life would eventually place her in a more favorable situation.
Webb arrived at the University of California, Riverside in 1976. College gave her a clean canvas, a new voice, and for the first time, control of her future, she said. Webb graduated in 1981 with a major in liberal studies, with an emphasis in psychology and education. Two decades later, she had a master’s from San Francisco State University and a doctorate degree from UC Berkeley.
“Education at UC Riverside saved my life. I was a child who never belonged to anybody. Until I arrived at UCR,” Webb said.
After graduation she went on to become president and chief executive officer for Laney College, the flagship campus for the Peralta Community College District in Oakland, which offered 44 associate degree programs to more than 20,000 students.
Growing up in Los Angeles County foster homes, Webb said she learned to analyze adults.
“I never believed that I was my circumstances. I was beat, called names. My sense as a child was that something was wrong with these adults who did not get to know me or my foster brothers and sisters instead of being so dismissive.”
That understanding and taking courses at UCR helped explain the world and human behavior, she said. She soon became involved with the student government and other organizations. She took on a job as a tutor, student recruiter, then student coordinator and advisor within the Admissions office. Her primary job was bringing underrepresented students to campus and showing them what college life looked like.
Webb grew to love higher education because she saw the impact it had made on her life.
After stepping down as Laney College president three years ago, she did not retire. Webb is now the CEO of Signature Solutions Corporate Results LLC, a success coaching business for executives, business owners, and other leaders. This work has taken her across the United States and abroad.
The key to her success? A combination of the following: realizing there are good people, wanting to live as her authentic self, dreaming big, knowing that her creator made her to perfection, and realizing that in order to achieve goals, she had to synchronize her heart and mind.
These tools helped Webb shed the armor she had built in her early years. They’ve also helped her remain connected with her foster-care brothers and sisters, while reconnecting with other siblings; she has 54 nieces and nephews. One of her brothers lives in Moreno Valley.
“I’m fortunate to have built my family the way I wanted to,” Webb said. “My mother has not been in my life, but I believe that energetically no one ever leaves. And you know, I never stopped loving her and appreciate her for giving me life when she didn’t have to.” Giving language goes here like this.